Goucher is a polished, no-nonsense play-by-play voice who has that knack, just like Bob Wilson and Fred Cusick, of telling you a scoring chance might be coming up just by a slight change of inflection in his voice. And maybe it's a result of having called nearly 1,000 games together, but he and Beers rarely fail to be in sync, with the analyst dotting the call of the game with quick, insightful observations that are technical yet understandable to casual (or bandwagon-hopping) fans.
I had intended to write about them for today's media column as sort of a contrast to last week's column on Jack Edwards, but the NFL Network's decision to hire Brad Nessler alongside Mike Mayock on its game telecasts took precedence. (Don't forget to unclip those microphones on your way out, Theismann and Millen!)
I never did catch up with Beers, the former Bruins defenseman and UMaine Black Bear. But despite his lack of a hockey card to use here, I did talk to Goucher, who as usual was candid and reasonable about the state of the Bruins.
Here's a transcript of that conversation to help whet your appetite for Game 4.
So, a 3-0 lead over the Flyers. Does this seem familiar at all? I imagine we're in agreement that this is an entirely different circumstance from what happened a year ago, with the Flyers being worse than they were and the Bruins considerably better
Goucher: [laughs] "The similarity is they had a 3-0 lead last year over Philly. But this year feels different, and it is different. Just the way they've played these first three games. The Bruins blew them out in Philadelphia the first game, in Game 3 they won handily as well, and they were able to come back from a deficit early on in Game 2 and then got great goaltending from Tim Thomas. So, to me, the 3-0 lead this year feels much, much different than the 3-0 lead last year. It's just a coincidence of opponent and round more than anything else."
Last year, the turning point in that series was easy to pinpoint. David Krejci, who was playing brilliantly, got hurt in Game 3. And Simon Gagne came back. The Flyers became the better team.
Goucher: "Yeah, and I thing there was even more to it than that beyond Krejci getting hurt. Marco Sturm, who led them with 22 goals last year, got hurt in the first game against Philly and never did return, [Dennis] Seidenberg didn't play in the playoffs last year, Andrew Ference was coming off an injury, Tim Thomas wasn't even part of the equation. So you factor all that into it, it feels so much different now than it was a year ago. I know people keep drawing parallels and it's understandable. But the Bruins have also had a lot of turnover from last year to this year. They've got, I would say, a half-dozen key players this year who weren't part of that series last year. So that's benefited them as well."
How has the feedback been from Bruins fans? Do you get the sense that there is real optimism about this team, or does the cynical mindset that the "same old Bruins" will let them down in the end still exist?
Goucher: "Well, I understand that. I know people maybe have a mindset like they're waiting for the other shoe to drop. And that's understandable. They've been disappointed like the Bruins have the last three years in the playoffs, especially the last two. But I also think this team has grown from losing in heartbreaking fashion last year, those who were here, and the turnover with the people they brought in, be it Nathan Horton, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Brad Marchand wasn't a part of it last year, you can understand maybe a cynical outlook overall from some fans, but I must say the feeling so far is one of optimism. And I think part of that is that they were able to get over that hurdle in the first round, winning Game 7 against the Canadiens. To do it overtime against their most hated rival seemed to get them over the hump and now here they are on the verse of trying to sweep the team that caused all the disappointment last year."
It seemed like the relief was almost palpable after beating Montreal in Game 7. Now, it feels like what's happening is the definition of momentum.
Goucher: "Yeah, and the other part of it is, they were down 0-2 to Montreal, and I can remember sitting at the morning skate prior to Game 3 in Montreal and wondering, you know, where's this going to go from here? They're down 0-2, there's been so much discussion about potential changes, and is that something that's in the very near future. And the next thing you know, they win two games in Montreal, they win three overtime games in the series, and now they're on the verge of hopefully advancing to the next round. It's amazing, and they learned this from last year, how quickly things can change. You start to take a turn for the better in that Montreal series, and especially after Game 7, they really seemed to be riding it since then."
The Sports Hub has been using your call of David Krejci's overtime winner in Game 2 in its promos, and it's really fascinating to hear how you and Bob handled the uncertainty when it appeared the puck was in the net but play never stopped. As a play by play guy, how do you avoid sounding confused when it's uncertain what just happened?
Goucher: "I think you have to hedge it a little bit. It looked like he scored, and Milan Lucic standing right in front of the net raised his arms as if he'd scored and he had the best view of anybody. He was pretty certain it was in. The problem that we had was, neither referee signaled that it was a goal, the goal light never came on, and those three people were much closer than we are. So you start to think, well maybe it did hit the crossbar, because we're a lot further away than them. You have to hedge it because what if it was crossbar and out of the net? So you just try to convey that. I yelled 'Score!' and then we said, well, wait a minute, maybe that hit the crossbar. Then we said something along the lines of, 'Milan Lucic is sure acting like it's in,' and as we said that we got a look at a replay and it was clearly evident it was in so we said immediately, 'he's right." You know, I always hope that with overtime goals they're just clean goals, like Horton's goals in the first round and Michael Ryder's goal in the first round. This one looked obvious, then it was as obvious, and then it turned out to be an obvious goal after all."
The Bruins were essentially a punch line on sports radio in Boston for years. The Sports Hub emphasized treating them as an equal to the other three major pro teams here from the get-go, obviously in part because they held the radio rights. But the response has been remarkable, and it's become clear the interest in a real outlet to talk about them has always been there. Has the switch to 98.5 and the increased discussion of the Bruins had any effect on your broadcast?
Goucher: "It's increased dramatically for all of us from an exposure standpoint. The one big thing we had on the [WBZ-1030] was obviously a powerhouse signal at night that stretched into 38 states. But what we gain from being on an all-sports FM is not only 24/7 sports talk, but a lot of that revolving around the Bruins. Now we have the weekly one-hour hockey show, and overwhelmingly the feedback has been positive. It's really increased the profile of what we do because people are talking about the Bruins now most of the day and they keep it right in the same spot on the dial to hear the games at night. It's broadened the spectrum of what we do over the last two years. There's no question we've benefited from the team being good. There's not any doubt about that. But we've also benefited from that sports talk all day long, and so much of it being about the Bruins. That's been a huge, huge positive for us.
"Bruins fans are incredibly passionate and incredibly loyal over all these years, and now I think they feel like they have a forum to express their opinions, good or bad. They've been so loyal for so many years, and now I think there's a the thought that they have a team that is ready to take the next step, and they are waiting for them to hopefully go on to do bigger and better things. They have a place to talk about it now, every day, throughout the day, which I think is great."
You guys have one significant advantage over the TV guys, other than your refusal to work royalty and the Revolutionary War into your broadcasts: You get to call every game through the playoffs, while NESN is done after this round, ceding the games to the network.
Goucher: "Thatís what I like about doing radio the most, to be there however far they go. If the Bruins are fortunate enough to go on and do some really good things, where else would you want to be but in the booth calling it? I love that aspect of it. It's irreplaceable. Radio allows us to do that. And that will be more pronounced next year when none of the local outlets will have games in the second round because of the national networks claiming them in the new television deal. I'm sympathetic to that, and NESN does a terrific job. But for what I do, that's the part that I like the most, that we're there until the end no matter how far they go."
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.